Colleges, History

Vintage Pitt Throws It Back with Archival Instagram Account

Past meets the present // we chatted with the Pitt grad behind @vintagepitt to celebrate the ultimate H2P throwback Instagram account.

For Felix Strater, every day is #ThrowbackThursday.

The 2019 Pitt grad runs @vintagepitt, an Instagram account boasting 8,000 followers dedicated to old photos of the University of Pittsburgh and the surrounding Oakland neighborhood.

“It just started picking up and picking up and it never stopped. And it amazes me still,” he says.

How @vintagepitt Got Started

Strater started the account in July 2018 after noticing a lack of historical material of Pitt’s campus on Instagram, inspired by Pitt’s most inspiring building, the Cathedral of Learning.

“I was just scrolling Instagram and I saw an old picture of campus, of the Cathedral, and I thought it was really cool,” he says. “So I looked around to see if there were any Instagram accounts for that stuff, and there wasn’t. So I decided maybe it’d be cool if I started my own.”

Going through the Pitt Digital Archives

Strater finds 90 percent of his Instagram photos from Pitt’s digital archives, which provides plenty of source material for him to choose from.

“I can just spend like hours going through there. There’s thousands and thousands of pictures,” he says.

However, he also looks to Twitter and Pinterest for inspiration — giving credit where credit is due, of course.

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A streetcar on Forbes Avenue in the 1960’s.

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On Instagram, he fills his feed with local news stations and media companies, and University accounts.

His process is simple. He’ll spend a “bunch of” hours per week going through archival material and narrowing down what photos he’ll use. He posts at least two to three times a week, and uses plenty of Pittsburgh hashtags like #steelcitygrammers and #412 to get new eyes — and potential followers — to the account.

“I’m not just posting anything. It’s all stuff that I find interesting,” he says.

Scaling Up to a Career in Digital Marketing

@vintagepitt has led Strater to success off of Instagram. He works in digital marketing, and the account’s popularity has helped him work with larger social media clients at his job.

“I get to use my experience there, so it’s been really helpful,” he says.

In the future, Strater hopes to sell @vintagepitt merchandise like stickers, buttons and prints.

Although his followers are mostly college-aged students, Pitt alums also count themselves as fans.

“I get a lot of messages and comments from people that went to Pitt over the decades or lived here their whole life,” he says. “They tell me all their stories, and it’s really cool to hear from the kids that go here now and parents that went here back in the 80s and 90s.”

H2P: Apart, but Together

And, for Pitt students who had to go home due to COVID-19, the account fills the Panther-shaped hole in their heart.

“I still get a lot of comments from people saying, ‘Oh, I miss this,’’’ he says.

Local legends like Rick Sebak and large Pitt-affiliated accounts like @pittadmissions follow the account, along with other high-profile followers.

“One of Wiz Khalifa’s friends who has a couple million followers follows me,” he says.

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Inside Forbes Field in 1970.

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Strater — who still lives in Oakland — says the account has taught him that Pitt and the neighborhood has paradoxically stayed the same and changed immensely.

“It’s just the little things that have changed over time,” he says.